Highways in Kentucky and across the country are busier than they have been in recent years thanks largely to low gas prices and improving economic conditions, and the surge in vehicle numbers has been linked with a 7.2 percent increase in accident fatalities between 2014 and 2015 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency said in an Aug. 26 report that year-on-year road traffic accident deaths have not increased at this rate since the Lyndon Johnson administration.

Traffic accidents in the United States claimed 35,092 lives in 2015, but the NHTSA report indicates that many of these deaths could have been prevented if road users had acted more responsibly. More than half of all those killed were not wearing a seat belt when they were involved in a crash, and almost a third of the country's fatal accidents involved a driver who was either intoxicated or exceeding the posted speed limit.

Oil prices and vehicle numbers are not likely to fall in the foreseeable future, and the NHTSA hopes that its report will fuel debate and prompt action. Car makers are helping to tackle the problem by developing autonomous vehicle technology and offering consumers an array of sophisticated safety systems, and legislators, road planners and law enforcement agencies across the country are being urged to treat the issue just as seriously.

In addition to a range of passive and active safety features, most modern passenger vehicles are fitted with devices that monitor performance and record important data. This information can be used by auto makers to identify issues and arrange repairs, but it may also be valuable to personal injury attorneys who are seeking compensation for their clients who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents and who can use the data to establish negligence on the part of another motorist.